Earlier this year I announced that I will be having open office hours in Ramallah. Since then I’ve had three sessions (one per month and each comprised of 6 meetings). I think now is a good time to discuss how it’s been going.

I had my first session on Jan 28, and my third session just yesterday. All told, I met with 16 people, 8 of whom I did not previously know. These meetings exposed me to 8 new startup ideas, 4 of which I’ll be taking a closer look at. These addressed opportunities in local e-commerce, crowd funding, social networks, social-based marketplaces, SaaS-based ERP, and edutainment for mobile.

None of these opportunities are at a stage where Sadara can come in with an investment, but that’s exactly the point. Office hours meetings allow for engaging entrepreneurs at the very early stages when their ideas are still fermenting and taking shape. This early feedback can help cut corners and save a lot of effort going down a path of undesirable outcomes.

Based on my observations so far, here’s a list of Do’s and Don’ts for the next time you schedule an office hours meeting:

Do’s

  • Come to the meeting on time.
  • If you can’t make it, make sure to cancel your appointment. Someone else may be waiting for your spot.
  • Have something specific to discuss. You only have 20 minutes, and the conversation needs to be focused to be effective.
  • Realize that I probe with my questions to understand, not to detract from your idea.
  • Take my feedback as an opinion. Challenge it. Let the market (or research data) validate or refute it.
  • Stick around after the meeting, meet other entrepreneurs coming to chat, have a conversation and share ideas.
  • You can always come again if you want to.
  • Tell others about office hours if you think they can benefit from it.

Don’ts

  • Don’t try to come with the perfect idea or pitch.
  • Don’t wait to come to office hours until you have a startup idea. We can use the 20 minutes to discuss anything.
  • Don’t come with printed material. Focus on the discussion and the interaction. You can always email me the material.
  • Don’t expect to have additional time. 20 minutes means 20 minutes.
  • And most importantly: Don’t address me with “Mr.” or “أستاذ”. “Saed” will suffice.

For those of you who have attended one or more of my office hours meetings, I’d love to hear your feedback. Feel free to leave a comment with your experience, what went well, and what didn’t.

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  • Rasha Hussein

    Well, “Mr.” Saed I think I will take some time to memorize the ToDos then register for the office hours.

    I am also interested to hear more about the startup scene in Palestine from your perspective after those office hours, are we improving? Are we not? Is the “sharing” concept more acceptable now? Is it not? Moving slowly? Moving recklessly? Moving fast? Is it only ideas and less execution, or people are doing more and working harder to see their ideas on the ground?

    • I would also like to hear more about the current status and may be more after the startup weekend in Ramallah

    • Miss Rasha,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m going to have to write a blogpost just to thoroughly answer your questions. In the meantime, here are the short answers:

      Q: Are we improving?
      A: Since Office Hours started earlier this year, no. Since launching Sadara in 2011, yes.

      Q: Is the sharing concept more acceptable now?
      A: On a limited scale, yes.

      Q: Moving slowly? Moving recklessly? Moving fast?
      A: Moving very slowly.

      Q: Is it only ideas and less execution, or people are doing more and working harder to see their ideas on the ground?
      A: There’s still a limited number of quality ideas, and a limited number of people capable of executing on them.

  • The idea of Office Hours is new and I like it. Thanks Saed for the office hour.

    • Happy you like it. And thanks for participating, Ahmad.

  • I feel privileged for attending Saed’s 3 office hours sessions. I personally think its a great chance for entrepreneurs to get a valuable feedback from a VC on any matter.
    I have to admit that although I had the chance to talk to Saed many times, doing it in an office-hours fashion made it less embarrassing (for the fact of him being super busy) and more casual (in a cafe rather than an office).

    Thank you Saed! I hope I have met the Do’s and Don’ts list and I look forward to our next meeting…

    • you certainly got the “You can always come again if you want to.” part of the Do’s down 😉

      thanks for being a regular, shadi

  • good tips , the Don’ts are much effective especially the last one 🙂

    • it seems the last Don’t was not effective with Rasha 🙂

  • Maysa Baransi

    No plans to start something in our Jerusalem?

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